Gleaning Day: College students glean apples for those in need

By Kim Walter

STRASBURG — Thanks to more than 100 college students, hundreds of locally grown apples will be distributed to churches and people in need in Washington, D.C.

About 120 students from Mary Baldwin College in Staunton completed their fourth annual gleaning event at Woodbine Farm Market on Tuesday morning. The gleaning goes hand in hand with the college’s Apple Day, which began in the 1940s as a way to harvest produce for student and faculty consumption.

Apple Day now consists of festivities and a day off from classes. However, some students decided to skip a chance to sleep in to participate in the community service activity.

Kara Jenkins, a 2011 Mary Baldwin graduate, thought peers would enjoy gleaning at her family owned farm market.

“Students and faculty have been gleaning for a long time, but I had the family connection with the farm, so I thought it would be a great opportunity for everyone,” she said.

The college’s sophomore class now runs the gleaning event each year, in coordination with the Society of St. Andrew.

Betty Heishman, Winchester-area gleaning coordinator, said Tuesday’s event was special since the apples would wind up in D.C., where local farms and produce aren’t plentiful.

“These apples will go to several churches and food pantries,” she said. “But our guy who drives the truck will also stop for anyone on the street in need.”

Heishman said it was nice to see so many young college students pitching in to help feed the hungry. The Society of St. Andrew focuses on getting leftover food and produce to people in need.

She said she hopes by participating in gleaning, students and faculty will think twice before throwing perfectly good food away.

“It’s very sad, because fresh, healthy produce is too expensive for a lot of people,” she said. “While most of us would walk right by these apples because of a nick or soft spot, there are plenty out there who would appreciate the chance to eat one.”

Each participant was given the goal of filling at least five bags of apples.

Jenkins said the apple harvest was good this year, and felt the goal wouldn’t be a hard one to meet.

Last year’s weather for the gleaning was quite different from Tuesday’s because it rained all morning. However, Heishman said students dealt with it and smiled the entire time.

Jordynn Heatherington, 20, participated in the gleaning at Woodbine Farm Market for the first time last year when she was a sophomore. She said she could have skipped it, but was happy she didn’t.

“It’s really peaceful and beautiful out here,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt that we’re doing something to help people.”

Heatherington said the opportunity to glean was important to her. During her first experience last year, she began to realize how easy it is to take fresh food and produce for granted.

“I’m really blessed in that I’ve never had to worry about where my next meal would come from,” she said. “It’s easy to be picky, but really, there are so many people here and across the country who would take any of these apples and be happy.”

To learn more about gleaning with the Society of St. Andrew, go to endhunger.org.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com